Can’t we just get back to appreciating the players? Forget about the controversial calls for a second or two and just reminisce over some of the best performances from Week 3 in the NFL.
Quarterback: Tom Brady, NE (+6.9)
Despite a losing effort, the Patriots can at least be pleased that after a so-so outing in Week 2, Tom Brady looked back to his best. He wasn’t helped by five drops, but with his offensive line given him plenty of time in the pocket, he picked apart the Ravens’ secondary with some precise throws. NFL you have been warned.
Running Back: Jamaal Charles, KC (+2.9)
Even if the bulk of his yards came on a couple of plays, it was a sight to see as Charles rushed for 233 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry… after contact.
Fullback: Nate Eachus, KC (+3.1)
Will we look back on 2012 as the year of the rookie fullback? Probably not, but Chiefs fans saw their team load the backfield this week as their undrafted free agent had a fine day.
Tight End: Heath Miller, PIT (+2.8)
A fine day all around for Miller who scored positively with his run blocking while also picking up two touchdowns on the 10 balls thrown his way.
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green, CIN (+4.8) and Calvin Johnson, DET (+4.2)
Two players who just keep doing what they’re doing. Green picked up 183 yards as he and Andy Dalton really found their stride. Over in Tennessee, Calvin Johnson keeps making plays even when the Titans’ defensive scheme was set up to prevent him beating them down the field. 164 yards later you realize you just can’t stop Megatron sometimes.
Tackles: Ryan Clady, DEN (+5.8) and Tyson Clabo, ATL (+5.0)
When Ryan Clady’s agent sit down and want to start talking dollars with the Broncos, it wouldn’t hurt to put a copy of this game on. The former first-rounder dominated Connor Barwin, pitching a perfect game in pass protection. Over on the right side, Clabo continues to impress as one of the league’s most reliable tackles. He allowed a hurry, but was an integral part of the Falcons’ rushing attack getting back on track.
Guards: Rob Sims, DET (+4.5) Jon Asamoah, KC (+5.5)
When Detroit brought Sims in from Seattle that was the kind of display they would have hoped for. Giving no ground in pass protection and doing a good job getting to the second level, this was Sims at his best. On the right side, Asamoah becomes the third part of a Chiefs rushing attack to make the list, even though he gave up a sack. That’s how good his run blocking was.
Center: Max Unger, SEA (+3.9)
It wasn’t exactly the most explosive offensive scheme of the week and it has gone completely unnoticed after that decision, but kudos to Unger to one of the better run blocking displays we’ve seen from a center this year.
Defensive Front 4-3
Defensive Ends: Michael Johnson, CIN (+7.2) and Cameron Wake, MIA (+9.5)
Both men did exceptionally well to keep four-sack Chris Clemons out of the lineup, but Johnson himself had a four-sack day and added an extra four hits as he became best buddies with RG3. Meanwhile, the NFL’s nearly man, Cameron Wake, continued to just keep on picking up pressure and even added five stops in the run game.
Defensive Tackle: Gerald McCoy, TB (+5.0) and Desmond Bryant, OAK (+4.4)
The Bucs may be short on numbers and talent on the defensive line, but if Gerald McCoy can stay healthy they’re in for a treat this year. His two-sack, one-hit and two-hurry day will start the comparisons to Ndamukong Suh again. The versatile Bryant wasn’t about to let the Steelers’ offensive line move him about; the Harvard grad continues to impress.
Linebackers: Philip Wheeler, OAK (+7.5), Karlos Dansby, MIA (+5.4) and Nick Barnett, BUF (+3.5)
We haven’t always raved about Wheeler’s work in coverage, but when you can break up a pass and force two fumbles? Well, you’re heading for this team. The fine start to the season by Nick Barnett continued with his third game with a grade of at least +3.4. He’s on form. The impressive Dansby made five tackles for a short gain (including plays nullified by penalties), another for no gain and picked up as a pass defense. All in a day’s work.
Defensive Front 3-4
Defensive Line: Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ (+5.8), Ryan Pickett, GB (+2.8) and J.J. Watt, HST (+5.5)
The Packers are using Pickett on the nose more and more, and he’s rewarding them with play like this. You won’t often see him picking up six tackles and three stops, but he was a force despite the good play of Max Unger. He’s got Wilkerson and Watt either side of him, with Wilkerson’s work in the run game being out of this world as he picked up eight defensive stops. Watt, as seems to be the case on a constant basis, just keeps wreaking havoc and he himself picked up four stops to go with three sacks.
Outside Linebackers: Justin Houston, KC (+5.1) and Ryan Kerrigan, WAS (+4.3)
Two sophomore players enjoying themselves as their teams ask more of them. Houston’s progression from the midway point last year continued with a three-sack (seven total pressures) display. Meanwhile, Kerrigan is picking up the slack with Brian Orakpo down and added another five quarterback disruptions to his growing tally, and three defensive stops in the run game.
Inside Linebackers: Lawrence Timmons, PIT (+4.0) and Sean Lee, DAL (+2.5)
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Lawrence Timmons who looked a little lost in the shuffle between positions last year. But he turned up on Sunday with one of his better displays, excelling in run defense. The Cowboys’ defensive leader walked away with a big interception, and while he maybe didn’t have the impact he normally does, that was enough to do it in a quiet week for inside linebackers.
Cornerbacks: Alterraun Verner, TEN (+5.3) and Tim Jennings, CHI (+3.7)
Verner nearly won the game twice for the Titans with his superb forced fumble-come-touchdown, and then interception that came back on a late hit of the QB. Even outside of that, he only allowed 6.3 yards per catch thrown his way. Jennings had his third fine outing in a row, giving up just eight yards on nine balls thrown at him (he defensed two and intercepted another).
Safeties: Thomas Decoud, ATL (+4.2) and Quintin Mikell, SL (+3.8)
It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Mikell play this well. He was busy and about the ball in a way that was reminiscent of his Eagles days. The two interceptions and pass deflection speak for itself as the brilliant start to the season of Decoud continued.
6-of-6 for Ryan Succop of the Chiefs … the Seahawks’ Jon Ryan dropped four punts inside the 20 … that was the kind of special teams performance that should help Niners fans forget about Kyle Williams’ playoff fumbling (well as much as they can anyway) … Ashlee Palmer and Nick Bellore led the way with four special teams tackles.